10 Green Innovations on Time "Best Inventions" List


It’s that time again — when the year-end roundups start rolling in. On the Time 50 Best Inventions of 2009 list published today, green energy innovations are out in force.

Some of the 10 green picks on the list of 50 inventions, like the YikeBike electric bicycle and the World First Formula 3 race car design that uses materials derived from carrots and cashews, seem unlikely to have much impact long term. But others, such as the solar shingle from Dow Chemical (s DOW), the energy dashboard from EnergyHub (or similar devices from competitors) and NASA and Cisco’s “Planetary Skin,” show 2009 has been a powerhouse year for a range of green innovations.

The best part of Time’s list? You can interactively rank the inventions yourself on the site on a scale of 1 (not important) to 100 (very important). How would you rank these 10 green innovations?

Philips L Prize LED (#3): Philips Electronics (s PHG) has developed a light-emitting diode (LED) bulb said to produce as much light as a 60W incandescent bulb using less than 10W, and lasting 25 times as long.

EnergyHub Dashboard (#4): Technically, EnergyHub’s high-end energy dashboard wasn’t invented in 2009 (the company was already developing a pilot trial last December). But the device contains enough computing power to provide detailed Google-style spreadsheets for programming your energy usage, and offers features such as comparing your home’s energy usage to that of other EnergyHub users or week-to-week energy consumption.

footprint-flickr-jojo_johnsonPrinceton’s Personal Carbon Footprinting (#12): Researchers from Princeton University suggest measuring carbon emissions at the individual, rather than national, level. After all, writes Time, “It’s the well-off people of the world — in Indiana or India — who are responsible for most carbon emissions.”

dow-solar-shingleDow Powerhouse Solar Shingle (#13): Dow Chemical introduced a new roof shingle this year that incorporates thin-film solar cells. It can be installed alongside regular asphalt shingles, and double as a solar panel — at at a price 10-15 percent cheaper than existing solar panels.

yikebikeYikeBike Electric Bicycle (#15): It folds, runs on a lithium phosphate battery, weighs about 20 pounds and can zip you around town at up to 12 MPH. Yes, it’s the YikeBike, priced at €3,500-€3,900. I’ll stick with my lighter-weight and much cheaper regular bike, thanks.

valcent-vertcropValcent Hydroponic Vertical Farming (#16): Texas-based Valcent has developed a high-density hydroponic farming system for growing food plants using a stack of rotating trays. The company claims it will use 5 percent 95 percent less water than conventional agriculture, increase crop yields 20-fold for the same amount of land, and eliminate pesticide and herbicide use.

planetaryskin_200NASA and Cisco’s Planetary Skin (#17): NASA and Cisco (s CSCO) plan to release a prototype next year of a cool data gathering tool that Time describes as “a global ‘nervous system’ that will integrate land-, sea-, air- and space-based sensors, helping the public and private sectors make decisions to prevent and adapt to climate change.”

nissan-leafNissan LEAF Electric Sedan (#25): After a series of delays, name changes, deals and design tweaks over the last two years, three automakers (Tesla Motors, Coda Automotive and Nissan (s NSANY)) have unveiled their visions for a first generation of all-electric family vehicles in recent months. Time picks the 2010 Nissan LEAF, calling it “the first fully electric vehicle built for mass production for the global market.”

schneider-discsSchneider’s Packing Algorithm (#37): Want to pack more goods in fewer containers? If your goods are discs of different sizes, then Johannes Schneider is your man. His research team at the University of Mainz has developed an algorithm that’s “better at detecting false starts and backtracking when it hits on an inelegant configuration,” and could help shipping companies pack more efficiently.

world-first-f3World First F3 (#40): A Formula 3 race car developed at the University of Warwick runs on a mix of chocolate and vegetable oil, has a coating on its radiator that converts ozone emissions into oxygen, and components made with carrot fibers, potato starch and cashew shells.

Graphics courtesy of the companies and universities; footprint photo courtesy of Flickr user JoJo Johnson



The Valcent hydroponic system uses 5% of the water used in conventional farming, not 5% less.

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